Less Conventional Sainthood
"There is not, of course, any such thing as a normal kind of saint. A saint is just a human being released from the love of self, and enslaved by the love of God. Any kind of human being will do for that, and the less conventional he is the better." - Evelyn Underhill
Have you ever heard of J. J. Abrams' mystery box?
The famous director and producer gave a TED Talk back in 2007 where he spoke about a box he purchased as a child. The box promised $50 worth of magic for $15. Abrams tells his audience that he never had the heart to open the box because it "represented infinite potential." Abrams makes a claim that a "mystery box" can often be more engaging in narrative than the reveal itself. Fans of his work, like shows Felicity, Alias, and LOST are likely familiar with the concept in action. Maybe you caught his latest work in the newest Star Wars franchise.
The "mystery box" concept has received a lot of negative push-back from fans and critiques from specialists. Even a true Abrams fan has likely had a few moments of disappointment when the box opened and what was inside really was $15, or less, of magic. The "mystery box" sets itself up for defeat by going against the old adage "under promise, over deliver."
The text for All Saints Day gives us a mystery box (except its not). 1 John 3:2 says "we are God's children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed." (emphasize mine, obviously)
This is one of the lines in the New Testament that grabs at my imagination. Most of them are contained in what we call the Johannine literature: the Gospel of John, the John epistles, and Revelation.
We hear one of them in our other reading for All Saints Day from Revelation:
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, "Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?" I said to him, "Sir, you are the one that knows." Then he said to me, "These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. "For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
And then there is my personal favorite passage in the Bible:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” John 21
What does this have to do with All Saints Day? The Johannine literature isn't giving us a mystery box. These scriptures aren't over-promising and under-delivering, nor are they under-promising and over-delivering. The thing promised and the thing received are both infinitely unimaginable because what is promised is Jesus. What's promised is of infinite worth, and it is freely given: God's own life for us and in us.
When the one seated on the throne promises to us: "See, I am making all things new" that includes you. You are being made new: in the water of life in Baptism, in the food and drink of the coming age that is the Holy Eucharist, in abiding in him and conforming to him and emptying your will for God's will, and in infinitely more ineffable ways we cannot comprehend.
Anglo-Catholic mystic and writer Evelyn Underhill wrote, "There is not, of course, any such thing as a normal kind of saint. A saint is just a human being released from the love of self, and enslaved by the love of God. Any kind of human being will do for that, and the less conventional he is the better."
What could be more engaging than being enraptured by the boundless wonder of God's love?
We're invited to let go, in the language of John, of darkness, of the world, of ourselves, and lose ourselves in endless light and love.
What do you think of the mystery box? Leave a comment and let me know. I'd also love to see your favorite passages from the Bible, and what All Saints Day means to you.